Firefighters are to step in and help Scotland’s struggling ambulance service, health secretary Humza Yousaf has revealed.
He is also pledging an additional £20m of cash to help the under-pressure Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) – with this money coming on top of £20m recently awarded to help boost recruitment.
The First Minister will give an update on the state of the Covid-19 pandemic later on Tuesday as the Army has also been called in to ease pressure on the NHS.
The extra help was announced in the wake of the service coming under increasing pressure amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
The recent spike in cases has affected workloads across the NHS – with Nicola Sturgeon warning recently that the ambulance service and the health service as a whole are facing the most challenging winter in a lifetime.
Sturgeon was last week forced to apologise “unreservedly” for long waiting times, coming under fire on the issue after a 65-year-old died after waiting 40 hours for an ambulance.
The First Minister said then that the Army could be called in to help the Scottish Ambulance Service.
Yousaf will tell MSPs on Tuesday that the fire service has answered a call for urgent assistance.
He told the Daily Record newspaper: “We have made a call to arms across the public sector to assist and we are pleased the fire and rescue service has agreed to help and provide additional resources.
“These are things we wouldn’t normally ask in peacetime but they need to be done given the nature of the crisis.”
His comments come ahead of a statement to Holyrood on the pressures the ambulance service is facing on Tuesday afternoon.
Speaking about the additional £20m, he stated: “The SAS can draw on this funding immediately and whenever it is required over the winter period.
“It will be up to the ambulance service when to spend it but given the urgency of what we are dealing with we expect them to spend it as quickly as they possibly can.”
The pressures on the service have seen ambulance waiting times rise to an average of six hours – with the Scottish Government coming under pressure from opposition leaders to deal with the situation.
The health secretary added: “We are still going to face an incredibly challenging winter, we know the flu season is still to hit.
“I am not going to pretend these measures are a silver bullet but I am expecting when it comes to the response times for the most severely ill and the top level of callouts to be reduced.”